21 March 2518
Arriving only six hours later the
ship set down with the shuttle arriving two hours later. Meet the contact that had a sensitive
due to its primitive nature, turns out to have created a niche market industry
of making fireworks. The contact, one
Otis Elam, has 50 tons of premium pyrotechnics for shipment to Ariel a ten day
trip. The cargo isn’t exactly legal and,
as a cover,
The full load and complications
add up to a 1500 credit run! To cement
During the bash at the hotel, there was much drinking and while very tempted, William avoided the whiles of one of the house hookers. Li Ming made 22 credits at the gambling tables. Surprisingly Willis joined in and made 27 credits. Cindy however, lost 17 credits. In the morning Xavier and Marsh awoke in a dingy cell with pounding headaches. Neither remembered leaving the ship and could not account for how they ended up in the cell.
Those that stayed in the hotel awoke to rioting outside the hotel. On looking outside, they were immediately accused of killing the prostitute hanging from a window of the hotel. A group of local toughs called Black Dusters, for the long coats they wear, and for all intents and purposes local law, rushed the hotel. There were 30-odd black dusters and the crew looked to Chan for what to do. The ship was not responding to frantic calls meant they were trapped. Chan, Cindy and William had side arms, while Li Ming only had a derringer and brass knuckles, with Willis completely unarmed. Facing hopeless odds against men with long guns, Chan had to make the decision to surrender.
The five in the hotel quickly joined the two in the cell. Left for three days in the cell with only a bucket of water, a block of moldy protein, and a second bucket for the aftermath of the first two items, the crew waited for someone to open the door. They figured it would be a bloodbath, but it was better to die trying to escape than at the end of a rope.
During the third night in the cell, a grappling hook clanks onto the bars of the window and after a sharp cry, the entire frame work is pulled from the wall. As the dust still billows, a Hispanic man pokes his head in and barks for them to hurry. The man is Isidro Benevidez and a friend of Thorton, seems religiosity has some value after all. Benevidez ells them it was the black busters that framed them. Right now they have to run, but if they can defeat the Black Dusters he wouldl give them more info at his home in San Melas. Benevidez brought enough horses for everyone. Quickly mounting up, the group fled.
William, despite some riding experience was thrown by a skittish horse. He rolled out well, and managed to gain control and remount in time to escape. The sheriff refused to pursue without a proper posse and this gave the crew time to make a plan. Benevidez and his half dozen friends took their extra horses back at Chan’s request and the crew promised to meet them in San Melas as soon as possible.
William devised the best means to regain their ship. Noting that the Dusters did not really seem to have any military skills, he figured that if Benevidez kept riding with all the horses, the dusters posse would pursue that diversion. Looping back to the ship on foot, they saw three dusters guarding the entrance, sending Xavier, Willis, Chan, and Li Ming to one side, while Cindy, William, and Marsh closed from the other. Each group got closer than expected, thus Chan had to make noise to distract the guards. Chan made a perfect bird call and nearly vanished into the night.
As the guards pivoted toward the noise, Marsh, Willis, and Li Ming were the closest and struck as one. Li Ming and Marsh delivered bone crushing blows that left their guards unable to resist the flowing strike that knocked them out. The one guard still on his feet tried to run, but went down under a flurry of fists.
Moving quickly onto the ship, Marsh, Williams, and Chan raced for the bridge, as the rest of the crew pulled the guards on board, disarmed, and bound them. Creeping onto the passageway leading to back in their control, they found two things out immediately. First all their equipment seized when they were captured. And two, there was a land lock that prevented their escape.
Arming themselves and donning armor, the entire crew, including Willis and even more surprising, Xavier took up arms to free their ship and help Willis’ friend. Xavier set a code lock on all the hatches of the ship to keep any Dusters trying to board while they were gone. The town was nearly unguarded and the crew was able to get into position near the block of buildings the Dusters had taken over. In an awful attempt as protecting their turf, the Dusters had lined up barrels as cover. Li Ming spotted that these were whiskey barrels and going by the quality of the whiskey, the idiot dusters had surrounded their base in incendiaries!
The resulting “battle” was more of
an embarrassment than a fight. A single
rifle shot by Chan into the front started a stampede of Dusters into their
“fighting” positions. Waiting until they
were in position with only a handful of pot shots to keep the illusion of an
attack to draw as many Dusters into the kill zone as possible, the crew waited
for Chans’ next signal. When no further thugs arrived, Chan had Cindy
let loose with several long bursts that opened up the barrels pausing for a few
seconds, William and Chan tossed a pair of grenades and there was a massive
whoosh of displaced air and a brilliant burst of flames that lit up the night
for miles. When it was over, there wasn’t a single black duster left in
Gathering up some of the many now surplus horses in town, the crew rode hard for San Melas arriving late in the afternoon of the following day. Their friend Benevidez explained that a Blue Sun scientist was growing Highleaf in hydroponics vats. It turns out their recent turn of bad luck wasn’t an accident, it was engineered. It turns out the group in charge of the raiders near Greenleaf was none other than Blue Sun!
This scientist has some kind of
Short on options, the crew agrees. The crew has three days to come up with a plan before the next train run. Benevidez explained that he can’t lift the lock himself, he does know the woman who can, but her price is the elimination of the competition and Patience isn’t a woman that is known for changing her mind.
Marsh immediately hit on returning to the ship to get the hover car and use this to gain the top of the train and easy access to the engine. William wanted to simply board the train at a stop and work their way forward. Surprisingly, Willis, Cindy, and even Li Ming agreed with Marsh. Chas was thinking along Marsh’s lines, but using the small hover mule. William argues for at least both plans being used together and Chan agrees. Willis adds he can boost the hover car’s antigrav to give a bit more altitude and power to carry three people. William knows he is too heavy for the roof landing plan and volunteers to board the train. Chan and Cindy will go with Marsh in the hover car, while Li Ming will join William on the train. Willis and Xavier will stand by with extra horses to assist the on train group escape.
Marsh and Willis ride back to the ship taking the rest of the day and arriving in early evening. It takes Willis five hours to modify the hover car and only an hour to drive back to San Melas. Willis and Xavier spend the rest of that day practicing their riding skills. Marsh spent time getting the feel of the boosted hover car, while the others worked on their part of the plan. The next day everyone took up their positions.
William and Li Ming boarded at the San Melas train stations. Li Ming immediately begins pouring on the charm and working her magic to get herself and William closer to the front of the train. She had a slight hitch on the second car back from the baggage car, but had more than enough skill to work past the obstacle. After half an hour, the two of them were in the car right behind the baggage car.
Once in place, William sent a single pulse signal and everyone sprang into action. Chan sent a single tone pulse to announce the start and this set William and Li Ming into action. They each fired on one of the two guards on the car. Li Ming’s target went down immediately, giving her time to rush forward as William downed his target with his second shot. William ran to the door heading away from the baggage car and used Scrapper’s Gel to fuse the lock and prevent reinforcements from arriving from the rear of the train.
Li Ming killed the first guard from the baggage car to open the door to their car, then used the opening to toss in a grenade. The blast kills one guard instantly and wounds the other six. She immediately rushed to the door and killed another guard. She felled two more guards by the time William reached the hatch. As the two entered a badly wounded man surrendered and William punched him out. Another guard tried to shoot William as he was occupied, but was killed by Li Ming. William pivoted and shot the last guard before the guard could shoot or surrender.
As the two on the train fought, Marsh was fighting a battle of his own. Despite the modifications made by Willis the hover car was having the devil’s own time with the backwash from the train, only Marsh’s incredible luck brought the hover car down safely on top of the train. Chan barely reached the engine safely, but Cindy was tossed over and hung desperately by one hand. In desperation Chan caught Cindy and together they got the fallen medic back on top of the train. Using each other for stability, the two women manage to reach the engine.
In the baggage car, William and Li Ming advanced carefully looking for the scientist Ghallager and found him cowering in his cabin. Terrified and pathetic, either William or Li Ming could find it in them to shoot the man, choosing to seal him in his cab in with Scrapper’s Gel.
On the top of the train, Cindy and Chan reached the engine. As they did, one of the engineers spotted them as the shaken Cindy made too much noise. Chan fired her shotgun twice instantly killing one of the two and wounding the second. As the survivor reached for the controls, Cindy killed him.
With the train now under control, Chan signaled for the riders to approach. Cindy figured out how to disable the brake cut outs and stop the train while keeping full power to the engine. Cindy and Chan fairly leapt back to the hover car on a now stationary train and Marsh blasted free of the train at high speed. The riders brought their mounts in close before the train even stopped and this made the mounting for William and Li Ming simple. All four spurred their mounts while evading sporadic fire from a couple of black dusters shooting from the windows of the train, until the afternoon was shattered by a massive explosion. When the smoke cleared, the engine, baggage car, and the first car were gone.
Riding back to San Melas, their friend Benevidez told them that they were free to go. Marsh drove the hover car back to the ship and returned in less than an hour. As they boarded, their friend said, “Muchos gracias amigos y amigas, Whitefall might not be much, but it is my home and getting rid of that Highleaf zao gao is a step in the right direction. Thanks again and remember, for you my friend’s the main thing to remember is that Blue Sun has got your number. Vaya con Dios”
Free to go, the ship lifts, the closest habitable location is Triumph, so Chan orders Marsh to lay in a course which is a 42 hour trip. Regardless of what awaited them, if anything on Triumph, Xavier had earned her way back into the crew.